Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

City weeds…

The city is truly an artificial (human-made) landscape.  Giant freeways and overpasses carry roaring traffic that go past large buildings, parking garages, and a heated sea of asphalt and concrete.  It would seem common sense that these places are of little value to wildlife.  They’re common sense certainly holds true.

However, what about areas in between all of those buildings, bridges, freeway interchanges and railroads?  Those areas that are so overgrown with weeds, vines, and mounds of soil?

Photo A: A native plant garden in Point State Park, Pittsburgh. Evan small patches of naturalized greenspace in between a road or a bridge can provide critical refuges for birds and wildlife.

While they might not seem like much, those wooded hillsides or weedy railroad corridors provide critical wildlife habitat, especially for migrating birds.  In a seemingly endless ecological desert, these overgrown areas provide food, shelter, and space for birds, beneficial insects, and small mammals.  They are also are a testimony to the resilience of nature, as many of these areas harbor native plants that have reestablished themselves on their own.  In addition, the popularity of native plant gardens, such as the one shown in Photo A, can aid in the reestablishment and restoration of native flora and fauna.

So next time you’re feeling daring enough to cross a railroad track  or to stop near the side of a freeway on-ramp, take a second look at those overgrown, messy, and weedy areas.  There’s more life there than you think…

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